Before ESPN’s “30 for 30” series essentially took the title away, HBO was the pioneer of quality sports documentaries. So it might stand to reason that the premium cable network would plow new ground in the making of sports mockumentaries.
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) will star in 7 Days in Hell, focusing on a marathon tennis match at Wimbledon in 2004 that lasted… well, the title gives that away, doesn’t it?
The premise isn’t completely far-fetched, as American John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut played a match during 2010’s Wimbledon that lasted 11 hours, stretched over three days.
According to Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, Samberg will play brash, bad-boy American star Aaron Williams. (He also helped come up with the idea for the film, along with screenwriter Murray Miller.) Harington’s Charles Lloyd Poole balks against the gentlemanly image Brits prefer in their tennis pros.
Samberg’s former Saturday Night Live castmate Will Forte plays a tennis historian and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) portrays Poole’s childhood friend who eventually became a model and made a sex tape with Williams. Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Sheen and June Squibb are also part of a loaded cast. Jake Szymanski, who’s helmed episodes of SNL and several Funny or Die segments, will direct.
A tennis comedy brings back bad memories of 2004’s Wimbledon, starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. (I apologize for reminding you of that, if you’d repressed the memory.) But using the mockumentary format, rather than a straightforward narrative, opens up many comedic possibilities and makes this project far more promising.
All sorts of funny and snarky commentary responding to what happened during and surrounding this epic slog of a tennis match could be used in talking-head, confessional segments, as we’ve seen on The Office and Modern Family. Documentaries are often disjointed, so filmmakers and actors can just create funny scenarios without necessarily worrying about how they tie in with the story.
I think the mockumentary style could help Harington too. While he’s compelling as Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, he could get run over by experienced comedic talent like Samberg and Forte. (Samberg’s won a Golden Globe for this stuff, man!) Hopefully, Harington is funny, but this might prevent him from having to carry a scene like he would in a traditional feature.
Perhaps most importantly, telling the story this way means the tennis action doesn’t necessarily have to look authentic either. Failing the eye test makes so many sports movies painful to watch.